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Field Guide for Avoiding Ice Dams this Winter

Field Guide for Avoiding Ice Dams this Winter

Every winter, ice dams take their toll on houses all across America. They ruin roofs, walls, and can create a massive mess for homeowners. Understanding the components of ice dams will help you take the right steps for preventing them from happening.

How do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams form when snow or ice melts on your roof, drips to the edge of the roof, then refreezes. This results in having a thick ridge of ice along the edge of your roof near your gutters. Ice dams are also occasionally found near skylights and vents as well.

The issue with ice dams is that when these pretty looking icicles melt, instead of draining into your gutters, like they should, they find alternative routes into the walls of your house. As you can imagine, water dripping down the inside of your walls can quickly lead to expensive unwanted repairs.

How do I know if my House is at Risk?

Now, this isn’t 100% fool proof. We can’t control Mother Nature. However, we can do these few things to better equip your home before something like this starts.

  1. The name of the game for preventing ice dams is proper ventilation. Soffit vents under the eaves of your roof keep air flowing through your attic. Soffit vents should always be clear and unobstructed, especially during winter.
  2. The problem with snow melting from the heat within the house is that the snow melts from below. In order to make sure it doesn’t, let your roof get plenty of sunlight. This helps the snow melt naturally from top to bottom, not bottom to top. To get more sunlight, have a professional remove the limbs and branches that are preventing the sun from hitting your roof.
  3. Make sure you properly seal common places where warm air escapes. This means having the right insulation for attic hatches, vent pipes, and exhaust fans.
  4. Make sure your attic is insulated properly. This will prevent the snow from excessively melting on your roof. A good rule of thumb is to keep your attic cool – about 10 degrees colder than the outside air.

How can I prevent ice dams?

Even if you have proper ventilation there are a few products that you can use to help prevent ice dams.

  1. As the snow falls, remove the snow from 3 feet back from the edge of the roof. We don’t recommend doing this while standing on the roof because it’s too dangerous getting close to the edge. Do your best to remove your roof’s snow from the ground using an elongated tool. Make sure to use specific snow removal tools because you don’t want to ruin your roof’s shingles.
  2. You can install heated cables into the eaves if your roof. However, have a professional do this because you don’t want to intensify the rate at which the ice melts.
  3. A good option is installing snow and ice slides during the off-season. These slides are placed on top of your shingles and prevent ice from coming in contact with your roof, gutters, and eaves.

As you can see, ice dams are not fun. Taking the right precautions will possibly help save your house from further damage. Finally, if you do see ice dams forming, please contact your local professional to have them remove the snow and ice for you.

What Is an Umbrella Policy and Why Do You Need One?

Umbrella Policy
Take a second and imagine that you’re 61-years old. Imagine that you’re well-seasoned in your career, just a few years away from retirement, and have a healthy portfolio of assets. You have two homes – one permanent and one vacation – and a car that is all fully paid off.

Suddenly, as you’re driving up to your vacation home, you, unfortunately, get into an accident. Luckily, you’re not hurt too bad and insurance will cover the damage to your car and any medical bills that you incur. However, the car you hit and the people in it were not as lucky. Everyone is okay, but there is damage and injuries to the people in the other car.

The judge concludes that you are liable for the accident, responsible for the damage to the car, for the medical bills, for the lost wages, and additional money for their pain and suffering.  Your auto policy covers much of the costs, but the total amount could exceed what your auto policy covers and is close to your entire retirement savings.

Not good.

This seems like a disaster, right?

Unless you have an umbrella policy, this disaster could, in fact, be a disaster. Yet, with an umbrella policy, most of this can be avoided. Umbrella policies take over when your other policies run up against their coverage limits – in this case, saving most of your retirement account from this ill-fated accident.

How Umbrella Insurance Works

Typically, insurance policies render one distinct coverage for one specific thing. For example, your homeowner’s insurance covers your home and everything in it.  On the other hand, an umbrella policy includes most every corner of your financial life. An umbrella policy covers:

  • Bodily Injury
  • Legal Fees
  • Legal Damages
  • Property Damage

So this means that whenever you approach your liability limit, your umbrella policy is right there to help counteract the additional expenses – saving you, your retirement account, and your peace of mind.

Give us a call today to learn how you can set up your umbrella insurance.

Why You Should Know What “Coverage Gaps” Are

Surprises are a part of life.

Month in and month out, we confront new obstacles, and no matter the size, these obstacles can be surprising and sometimes undesirable.

In the insurance world, these “undesirable surprises” are called “gaps” and they’re never enjoyable. However, if you know these policy gaps it can lessen the impact of their severity if they ever occur.

Coverage Gap: A coverage gap is an area or type of risk that an insurance policy does not cover.

How to Avoid Coverage Gaps

No matter what, coverage gaps will always continue because there is no such thing as an insurance policy that doesn’t have gaps. To learn a little more about these gaps, here are two seasonal scenarios where coverage gaps may occur:

The Roaring River

You live next to a beautiful stream that gently flows close to your backyard. It’s never been a problem until now. One weekend, after an ominous forecast by your local weather station, torrential rains came down and that quiet stream turned into a roaring river. Your backyard is now gone and your basement is under four feet of water.

Flooding is not covered by your homeowner’s policy. In order to be covered, You’ll need to obtain a separate flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer. This is a gap people sometimes face. Give us a call if you have questions about your homeowner’s policy and we’ll gladly go over it.

The Summertime thief

During the summer months, you decide that it’s okay to leave your windows open while you head out to your job. As you get home, your screen is broken and you realize that some of your belongings are gone. A burglar has broken in.

Chase Clarke Stewart and Fontana

Here’s where coverage gaps come into play. You have personal property coverage on your homeowners/renters policy, and your policy covers $1,000 toward jewelry in a single incident. Unfortunately,  the burglar walked away with $5,000. You’re out $4,000. There’s the gap.

In order to lessen the gap, you can “schedule” these expensive jewels. Don’t know what “scheduling” is? To learn more about scheduling, give us a call and we’ll gladly make sure your belongings are covered.

Want to learn more? Give us a call.

It’s important to understand your policy and address any coverage gaps that seem particularly concerning. That’s why we’re here to help.

2017 Resolutions: Safer Credit Card Practices

Chase Clarke Stewart and Fontana Insurance - Safe Credit Card Practices

Cue the whistles and bells. It’s the New Year! Have you made your resolutions yet? If so (or not) It’s important to know that worldwide fraud losses on credit, debit and prepaid cards in 2014 topped $16 billion, according to the Nilson Report, a trade publication for the global credit-card and mobile-payment industry. Thus, we urge you to put safer credit card use on your list.

Here are a few tips:

  • Try to practice the one card philosophy. This means using one card that isn’t shared between family members.
  • Use your judgment and refrain giving your card to anyone who you feel isn’t trustworthy. Even the slightest amount of doubt is worthy of questioning who you’re talking to. If you’re providing your card information online, make sure the website is secure by having the green lock in the URL.
  • A lot of people simply toss their receipts and statements. Please do NOT do this in 2017, and every year proceeding. Instead of tossing, shred them – even if they don’t list your full account number.
  • Check your statement every month. Instead of looking at the sum and saying, “That looks accurate,” do a full scan on your statement and be aware of anything that looks off. Also, draw a line through any blank spaces in your receipts above the total before you sign, and always review the charges.
  • Finally, always remember if something seems funny, or weird just walk away from the situation. It’s your year this year. Make it safe and make it great.

As always, we’re here to answer any insurance questions you may have. Feel free to reach out to us.

How to Stay Safe on New Year’s Eve

2017 is right around the corner and whether 2016 was the best or worst year, everyone always loves sending it off with a bang on new years eve. To make sure your New Year’s Eve is fun and safe, here are a few safety tips to ensure you start 2017 off right.

Chase Clarke Stewart and Fontana New Year's Eve Safety Tips

Plan your Transportation

Don’t drink and drive. In fact, let’s rephrase that – NEVER drink and drive. Unless you’re hosting a party at your house, you’ll most likely be spending New Year’s Eve with friends and family that is a drive away, either at their house or at a bar. Plan to have a designated driver, call an Uber/cab, or crash on your friend’s couch. The surge pricing of an Uber or the restless night of sleep on a couch is far better than a DUI, or worse an accident.

There is no excuse for drinking and driving, so make sure your transportation is scheduled and taken care of before you clank your glass in celebration.

Safety in Numbers

It’s always better traveling with the ones you love, so make sure you’re never traveling alone on New Year’s Eve. A good portion of the population will be drinking that night, which by default will make traveling a little more dangerous. So always make sure you know where you’re going, and let people know so they can expect you. And above anything else, if you ever feel that you’re in an area (street or bar) that isn’t safe, simply leave with your friends.

Eat Your Dinner

Make sure that before you head out, you’re leaving with a full stomach. It’s the end of the year, so why not celebrate with your friends and family by eating a nice meal. Eating before drinking is always a good idea. It will help soak up the alcohol and keep you from snacking on the apps and candy at your friend’s party.

Communication is Key

Communication is everything and everything is communication. Make sure everyone in your party knows what you’re doing at all times. If you need to leave, let them know. If you’re heading to another party, let those people know that you’re on your way. Keeping them in the loop is just the kind thing to do on New Year’s Eve.

Have Fun

Finally, remember to have fun. Whether you’re standing in Times Square watching the ball drop, at a bar, with friends and family, or hanging in, say thank you for all the wonderful things that happened in 2016, and get ready to make 2017 a year full of love and happy memories.

12 Must-Have Items for Your Winter Storm Emergency Kit

While the cold weather has suggested that winter has been here for a while, the season officially began Wednesday.

Ready or not, the first day of winter is here. While many people are hustling and bustling to get those last minute gifts, here is a friendly safety reminder of the practical items you should have in your winter storm emergency kit.

What to Include in Your Winter Storm Emergency Kit - Chase Clarke Stewart & Fontana

Winter Storm Emergency Kit

  • First aid kit, including over-the-counter painkillers, rubbing alcohol, eye wash kit, and vomit-inducing medicine
  • Rock salt or ice melt, sand, and snow shovels
  • Water and nonperishable food (for three days)
  • Emergency lighting and flashlights with extra batteries
  • Whistles to signal and direct attention during and after the storm
  • Battery or crank-powered radio
  • Walkie-talkies and/or cellular phones (with spare chargers and  portable batteries)
  • Batteries
  • Blankets and extra clothing
  • Hand and power tools
  • Portable pumps and hoses
  • Plastic covers and tarpaulins

With these items stored away, you should have an extensive and well-put-together emergency kit to combat any winter storm that decides to swing by.

On behalf of everyone here at Chase Clarke Stewart & Fontana, we would like to wish you a festive holiday season and a happy, healthy new year!

“Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover That?”

If you have homeowners insurance, you know that you’re covered in the event of fire damage or if you encounter a few sticky finger thieves. Now that the holidays are right around the corner and more people will be visiting your home, it’s time to cover three potential scenarios that may happen to you this holiday season and the likely coverage that each one has:

The Thirsty College Student

Every happy holiday party has three essentials: festive lights, sweets, and a large punchbowl of spiked egg nog. Your brother’s son, a recent college freshman on winter break, dunks his moose shaped mug into the punchbowl – once…twice…three times more. As the party ends, he gets into his car, backs down your driveway and injures one of the other guests. The guest turns around and sues you.In this situation, be very careful about serving alcohol at your house.  Some carriers are excluding coverage for Host Liquor Liability.  This means that you as the homeowner, will have to defend yourself in court.  So take the time to call your agent and confirm the language within your policy before throwing that big Holiday Celebration!!

The Brightest House on the Block

You just finished watching Christmas Vacation and you turn to your wife and say, “honey, I’m going to make our house the brightest house on the block!” She rolls her eyes and you start planning the masterpiece. Two weekends pass, and you’re on the last few strands. As you reach to staple the final light you slip off the ladder and fracture your arm. Your homeowner’s policy will not cover injuries to you, only injuries to others. This accent will fall under your health insurance coverage.

Black Friday Madness

You’ve never missed a deal on black Friday and this year wasn’t going to be your first. Your daughter asked for the new what-cha-ma-call-it and she HAS to have it. The morning of Black Friday, you turn the corner of aisle 12 and see two what-cha-ma-call-its remaining on the shelf. You don’t remember throwing an elbow and breaking the person’s wrist as you clawed to grabbed for the remaining two, but witnesses claimed otherwise. Now you’re being sued. This may be considered as an intentional act and may not be covered.

As the holiday season continues to strengthen, remember to review your policy. Give us a call and we’ll gladly let you know the nuances of your coverage.

5 Checkboxes Engaged Couples Should Check

Congratulations – you’re engaged! You’re marrying your best friend and you can’t be more excited. You nailed down the venue, purchased the rings, invited all your family and friends, wrote your vows, and have the wedding party solidified. All the hard stuff is done, but the important stuff still needs to be completed: getting your financial lives in sync. Here are a few tips to get started if you want to live a lifetime of happiness.

engaged

1. Discuss all the key financial information with your partner. Provide each other with key account information like your savings, checking, investment, and even mortgage accounts. In addition, don’t forget your insurance information! On the flip side, provide the location of non-financial information like birth certificates, social security cards, safe deposit keys, etc.

2. Create an emergency savings fund. Hopefully nothing happens to you, but in the off chance that it does you’ll have an account to help you out. Make sure you have at least six months of income saved that can help you if something unexpected comes up. If six months isn’t doable, save what you can!

3. Consider life insurance. If you work, you may have the opportunity to get life insurance through your job – which is a nice benefit. It’s often one or two times your salary, but it won’t follow you through life. Therefore it makes sense to purchase an individual policy. It’s not terribly expensive (a healthy 30-year-old typically pays around $13 a month for a 20-year, $250,000, level-term policy) and you’ll continue to be covered as long as you pay the premium. For an estimate of how much life insurance you need, give us a call and we’ll happily assist.

4. Give an insurance agent a call. Now that you’re engaged, it’s time to get friendly with your insurance agent. People don’t realize this, but it’s typically free to sit down and talk about your needs – again free of charge. If you don’t have time to come in a talk, give us a ring and we’ll answer any questions you have about your engagement, your future, and what insurance policies you can purchase.

5. Buy insurance on your ring. Putting insurance on your rings may seem unromantic, but there is nothing better than peace of mind. In order to insure your rings, you’ll need to provide the receipts and possibly an appraisal on the ring from a certified gemologist. No matter the value of the ring, having it insured will cover anything from theft and damage to accidentally dropping it in the garbage disposal.

 

Now that you’re about to marry your best friend, these few tips can provide you a simple direction for how to better plan your finances and insurance policies.

Holiday Cooking Safety Tips

For millions of people, this is the season of friends and good food. Unfortunately, the holiday season also tends to bring up less joyous outcomes: holiday kitchen fires.
Do you know the top reason for home fires? Yup, you guessed it: cooking.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 43% of home fires start in the kitchen. Just think about that stat for a second. Almost HALF are started in the kitchen! Now that the holidays are upon us, here are a few tips to keep your kitchen safe this holiday season.

Kitchen Safety Tips

These four tips are from the National Fire Protection Association and should be kept in mind as you gather together for your Thanksgiving meal this week.

Stay alert

Stay on your toes and be alert! If you start to feel the tryptophan kick in, or you have consumed alcohol please do not use the stove or stovetop. You wouldn’t drive tired or inebriated, so why play with fire while under the influence or tired?

Stay close

Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food. Just having your stove a few degrees hotter can start a fire in a blink of an eye. Make sure you’re there just in case.

Stir often

Not only is this a good cooking tip for flavor and consistency, but if you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you have food on the stove or in the oven.

Create a safe zone

Keep the flammable materials like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, or towels away from your stovetop. With more people in your kitchen, it’s easy to lose track of things so have a rule, “keep the flammables away.”
With these tips in mind, everyone here at Chase Clarke Stewart & Fontana wishes you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. Cheers!

Cyber Liability Insurance: Are you Covered in the Event of a Cyber Attack?

What do Kmart, American Express, Target, Home Depot, and eBay, have in common? They are all part of massive data breaches where hackers stole and exposed customer records for monetary gain. The frequency of these cyber-attacks has increased year over year which has put Cyber Liability Insurance in the spotlight.

Odds are that if you’re reading this post, you most likely have a LinkedIn account. In May of this year, hackers stole 167 million (yes, you read that right) accounts from the social media giant. This left Cory Scott, LinkedIn’s Chief Information Security Officer, with a logistical nightmare trying to sort out the mess.

In addition to LinkedIn, Target was unfortunately struck by a similar breach. 40 million credit cards were compromised and 70 million accounts were hacked.

Cyber_Liability_Insurance_Chase_Clarke_Stewart_&_Fontana

Yes these are global brands, but small businesses also see breaches on a consistent basis — really any company that relies upon technology is vulnerable to an attack.

If your business is hacked, having Cyber Liability Insurance can greatly help you through this tough time. In this post, we’ll quickly explain the scope of a cyber policy and how it can help you in the event of a hack.

What Cyber Liability Insurance Covers

Cyber Liability Insurance is a combination of four components:

  • Errors and Omissions
  • Media Liability
  • Network Security
  • Privacy

Errors and Omissions: E&O covers claims arising from errors in the performance of your services. This can include technology services, like software and consulting, or more traditional professional services like lawyers, doctors, architects, and engineers.

Media Liability: These are advertising injury claims such as infringement of intellectual property, copyright/trademark infringement and libel and slander. Coverage here can extend to offline content as well.

Network Security: A failure of network security can lead to many different exposures, including a consumer data breach, destruction of data, virus transmission and cyber extortion. Network security coverage can also apply if you’re holding trade secrets or patent applications for a client, and that information is exposed due to a failure of your security.

Privacy: Privacy doesn’t have to involve a network security failure. It can be a breach of physical records, such as files tossed in a dumpster, or human errors such as a lost laptop, or sending a file full of customer account information to the wrong email address. Companies have also faced liability from returning a photocopier with a hard drive that contained customer tax records.

As the holiday season approaches and online sales increase, we at Chase Clarke Stewart & Fontana, recommend that businesses, large and small, make sure they know if they’re covered in the event of a hack. Fill out the form or give us a call at 1.413.788.4531 to talk to a friendly representative.

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